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Right to choose 

Sweet home California or Alabama, here we come

What does bright blue California have in common with deep red Alabama? Not a heck of a lot, you might say, considering the ever-widening chasm between "progressives" and "conservatives" threatening to tear this nation in two. If that's your thinking, you may be surprised by how closely aligned their politics really are. Here's the dirty truth:

• Both states are working to deny a woman the right to make fundamental medical decisions regarding her family.

• Both states are injecting government in the middle of the doctor/patient relationship.

• Both states will enforce an end to privacy between a doctor and patient.

We figure by now, most are familiar with Alabama's so-called "heartbeat legislation," which prohibits abortion after six weeks, even in the case of rape and incest. The only exception is to save the life of the woman. If pregnancy threatens a woman's health but not enough to kill her, that's just tough luck. Apparently, Alabama politicians believe that women and their doctors can't be trusted to make the right decisions on this matter, and they have stepped in to take over.

It may surprise you to learn that California politicians also believe that women should not be trusted to make medical decisions regarding their families. Senate Bill 276, which is currently speeding through the Legislature, would create a system in which a woman's (and a doctor's) judgement on the health and well-being of her child is disregarded in favor of that of a public health official who would never meet the child in question. This distant government official would have the power and obligation to overrule a physician's recommendations regarding childhood vaccination if they do not conform to the narrow parameters determined by the state.

That is to say: If a child has experienced an allergic reaction to vaccines in the past, that's just tough luck. Only if that reaction reached the point of near-death will an exemption be permitted. While a physician will consider a mother's (and father's) observations, concerns, and experience when recommending medical treatment, the public health official will not. Under this new law, a mother's perspective would be relegated to the dustbin of irrelevancy and hysteria. Sound familiar?

With these laws, California and Alabama lead the nation in the race to enact the most extreme laws and engage in the most radical government overreach in their respective fields. Taking a licensed physician out of the equation and replacing him/her with government bans and medical mandates is just wrong. There is no place for such government intrusion in private health care matters in this "land of the free."

While we are not here to argue for or against abortion or vaccination, you should know that we are 100 percent pro-choice, in the broadest sense of the term: We believe that all people should have the right to choose (or to decline) medical treatment in consultation with their doctors and families. We embrace the notion of "informed consent" and are 100 percent opposed to the legislation of medicine. We stand fully behind the idea of "My Body My Choice."

Whatever you believe about vaccination—good, bad, or indifferent—please understand that the ramifications for SB 276 go well beyond the measles. Most pertinent in this discussion is the bill's undermining of the right to privacy, which is the foundation of Roe v. Wade, the landmark case establishing a constitutional right to abortion. How can we demand privacy for ob/gyn issues, while mandating government intrusion for pediatrics?

And just to be clear, we are not talking about one or two vaccines: Full compliance with California's strictest-in-the-nation law requires more than 30 doses of nine different antigens, necessitating numerous doctor's visits and more than a dozen injections for kindergarten admission. Missing even one of these doses or antigens is already prohibited without a medical exemption from a licensed MD. Less than 1 percent of all California school children today have medical exemptions to one or more vaccines.

While Alabama's legislative work is done, and Alabama women must now look to the courts to protect their medical freedom, we still have a shot at prevention here in California. The Democratic majority in Sacramento will turn this bad idea into law within the month if we don't speak up.

In reaffirming her support for women's rights, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) recently stated, "I respect every woman's right to make a decision about what's in the best interest of herself and her family" (Associated Press, May 15, 2019). And we wholeheartedly agree.

Please call state Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and state Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo) today and urge them to oppose SB 276. Δ

Sara Semmes and Nicole Dorfman are members of the Central Coast Health Coalition. Send a response through clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a letter for publication and email it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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